The Triple Melting Pot:
The immigrant who came to this country by the millions in the latter part of the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries was expected sooner or later, either in his own person or through his children, to give up virtually everything he had brought with him from the “old country”—his language, his nationality, his manner of life—and to adopt the ways of his new home. Within broad limits, however, his becoming an American did not involve his abandoning the old religion in favor of some native American substitute. “[In this country] from the very beginning, we did not really expect a man to change his faith.” This fact, to which George R. Stewart calls attention in his American Ways of Life, is of immense significance for understanding mid-20th-century America. It is a fact of the historical and sociological order, not of the theological; the immigrant was not expected to change his faith upon arrival in this country, not because Americans were indifferent to religion or were committed to theological views which called for non-interference in religious matters, but because almost from the beginning the structure of American society presupposed diversity and substantial equality of religious associations. Not only was the immigrant expected to retain his old religion, as he was not expected to retain his old language or nationality, but such was the shape of America that it was largely in and through his religion that he—or rather his children and grandchildren—found an identifiable place in American life.
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